Indian Americans disappointed at Neera Tanden’s withdrawal

Neera Tanden delivering opening statement at her Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on February 9, 2021. Image via C-SPAN screen capture.
Neera Tanden delivering opening statement at her Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on February 9, 2021.

Community appalled at double standards over tweets ending her quest for cabinet post.

The Indian American community is deeply disappointed at the withdrawal of Neera Tanden’s nomination as President Joe Biden’s budget chief ostensibly over some of her offensive tweets.

The community, which had worked hard to help Kamala Harris and other Indian American candidates win political offices, is also appalled at double standards shown by Republican senators who opposed her but stood by former President Donald Trump despite his offensive comments.

If confirmed, Tanden would have been the second Indian American in a US presidential cabinet after Republican Nikki Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to UN with cabinet rank.

She would also have been the first Indian American and first woman of color to lead the powerful office of management and budget (OMB) charged with crafting the $5 trillion US budget and vetting government policies and appointments.

Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of AAPI Victory Fund said the “Fund and many AAPIs worked very hard to get a seat at the cabinet table and are very disappointed.”

“There is a double standard here and Neera Tanden is clear evidence that breaking glass ceilings requires sacrifice,” he said. “We thank her for this and know she will do well in the future.”

Narasimhan, founder of the Fund, which works toward electing candidates from Asian American and Pacific Islanders communities, was not the only one who saw a double standard in the way Tanden was treated, compared to other male nominees.

Sangay K. Mishra, an assistant professor of political science and international relations at Drew Univesity, also attributed the collapse of the Tanden nomination to different standards employed by senators in confirming nominees.

“There are different standards for women and women of color,” he said. “Opposition to her was not based on any policy differences or her ability to do the work but it was more about her public persona, particularly her twitter use. It is hard to accept that she has been treated fairly in the confirmation process.

Mishra is the author of “Desis Divided: The Political Lives of South Asian Americans.”

Mahinder Tak, long-time Democratic fundraiser and Bethesda, Maryland, resident noted that Tanden had “apologized for her tweets a number of times.”

“It was disappointing that the Senators that opposed her did not take them into consideration,” he said. “Given Tanden’s experience and background in policy, the nation would have benefited from her expertise at a time like this.”

Indiaspora Executive Director Sanjeev Joshipura echoed the sentiment. “The Indian-American community is deeply offended by the fact that Neera’s nomination had to be withdrawn,” he said. “She would have been a terrific leader of the office of management and budget! It is the nation’s loss that she won’t be able to serve in that capacity.”

“It’s a sad day for the community,” said Ramesh V. Kapur, President of US-India Security Council, noting that the community was set to reach “one of the highest positions at the cabinet level.” “It is double standard that Neera couldn’t be confirmed,” he said pointing out that most GOP Senators, who opposed Tanden, were not outraged by the tweets of former President Trump, who had attacked his political opponents mercilessly on Twitter until he was banned by the social media giant.

He also noted that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who declared his opposition to Tanden sinking her nomination, “had voted to confirm Trump’s ambassador to Germany, who had tweeted racist stuff about Obama.”

Recalling the community’s efforts to win over some Republicans after Manchin declined to support her in an evenly divided 50-50 senate, Kapur said the community could have coordinated better.

“Of course the lesson here is that we have to get a little more coordinated on a bipartisan basis,” Kapur said. “In a situation like this, we could have succeeded a little bit more.”

“We tried to get some votes from Republican side, but it was not successful,” he said revealing approaches made to Dan Sullivan of Iowa, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rob Portman of Ohio and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

“We tried. But we couldn’t convince them. We ran out of time,” Kapur said.

(Zofeen Maqsood contributed to this story.)

White House vows to keep fighting for Neera Tanden (February 26, 2021)

Key Senate committees postpone votes on Neera Tanden for Biden budget director (February 24, 2021)

Indicating trouble, Neera Tanden’s Senate committee votes postponed (February 24, 2021)

Manchin set to derail Neera Tanden’s nomination; could torpedo Vivek Murthy as well (February 21, 2021)

Neera Tanden highlights her India born mother’s struggle in America (February 9, 2021)

Neera Tanden, who lives and breathes politics and policy (December 26, 2020)

List of Indian Americans in the Biden administration (January 2, 2021)

Biden defends ‘smart as hell’ Neera Tanden (December 3, 2020)

Like Kamala, Neera stands on the shoulders of her Indian mother (December 2, 2020)

Indian American Neera Tanden tipped to head Biden’s budget office (November 30, 2020)


One Comment

  1. These organizations do not speak for all Indian Americans. Nor is Indian Americans support based solely on ethnicity.

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